Maiden's Johnson uses camps to improve, help stock

Eager for his senior season and the opportunity to play football in college, Maiden quarterback Matt Johnson went to work this summer.

The 6-foot-3-inch signal caller took part in 10 camps all around the state of North Carolina in hopes that a school would notice him.

“I realize coming into the year, there is a time in the season called the evaluation period, where colleges look at tape and everything about you,” Johnson said. “From that, they’ll decide to make or not make an offer. A few weeks going into that, I realized I didn’t have any offers. I thought I would go to the schools and make a personal impression on them.”

The journey started June 5 with a trip to Marshall University. Six days later, Johnson participated in a camp at Elon, which started a trend of six camps in nine days, including two camps at the University of North Carolina and Western Carolina on the same day.

“A lot of people tell me not to wear myself out,” Johnson said. “I know teammates that didn’t go to 10 camps. I decided that I was going to put an ‘egg in every basket.’ I didn’t have an offer yet, and I wanted to work at every school to get one.”

During that week, Johnson took part in camps at Elon (June 11), East Carolina (June 12), UNC (June 16, morning), Western Carolina (June 16, evening), Duke (June 18) and Appalachian State (June 19).

Johnson’s strategy to pursue bigger camps, such as Duke and UNC, was to garner some smaller attention.

“I just wanted myself out there,” Johnson said. “The bigger colleges I went to, like Duke and North Carolina, I know they wouldn’t be an issue. They would sign players that are No. 1 and No. 2 in the state at their position because they are such a big school. I went to those just so the smaller schools could see me and make them say ‘that Matt Johnson kid is out there working really hard.’”

During his time at the camps, one trait about Johnson’s game concerned some college coaches and scouts, but he improved the flaw tremendously.

“One of the colleges I went to told me ‘thank you for coming, but you aren’t fast enough to play in this offense,’” Johnson said. “That has been my main goal this summer. I’ve lost a little bit of weight, I’ve knocked two-tenths off of my 40-yard dash time and I’m actually faster than I was.”

Despite what some scouts consider slow speed, Johnson still amassed 1,028 rushing yards and 12 rushing scores at the quarterback position in 2010, while also passing for 1,756 yards and 23 touchdowns.

Johnson, who carries a 3.8 GPA in the classroom and is president of the North Carolina state BETA club, should be even faster this year due to the loss of 10 pounds and a quicker 40-yard dash time.

Maiden coach Brian Brown said he is pleased with what he has seen from his veteran quarterback early in practice.

“We feel good about Matt,” Brown said. “He has worked hard. It’s nothing new, though, because he has done this since he’s been here. Everyone on this team is trying to get better.”

Johnson completed his summer with camps at Wofford on June 23, Furman on June 24 and Coastal Carolina on July 9.

Even he admits he was drained from the work he put in.

“After the 10th camp, I don’t think I would have done another one,” Johnson said. “I was absolutely worn out. I spent most of my summer, just a little over a month, every weekend at the camps.”

Despite his somewhat uncertain future, Johnson is proud of his hard work and summer preparation.

“Most of the connections and promising offers I have come from people talking about me and referring me to other coaches,” Johnson said. “I’m hoping that works out. It sounds like it might. I want to go somewhere. I’m going to keep working hard like I want to play in Division I. Whatever happens, I’m proud of myself that I am in better physical shape to start this season than I have any other season.”